Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McGee attorney charges manipulation, deception by witness in opening statements of federal trial

Former Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee was the target of a campaign to remove him from office by a local businessman-turned informant, his defense attorney argued during opening statements in his federal trial today.

McGee faces nine counts alleging bribery, extortion and attempting to evade reporting requirements for a $15,000 cash transaction.

Federal defender Calvin Malone said the government's main witness, Jack Adel, had initially supported McGee by hosting fundraisers, contributing to programs McGee supported, and introducing him to local business owners. The two had developed "what one could describe as friendship," Malone said.

But that friendship dissolved when McGee opposed a plan by Adel to sell his liquor and grocery store to a person outside of the district, Malone said. It was then that Adel contacted former Ald. George Butler, who set Adel up with the FBI. Adel then waged a campaign of "manipulation" and "deception" to remove him by convincing federal prosecutors to charge him with bribery and extortion. Adel then ran for McGee's seat.

"This case is about the efforts of a local businessman who waged a campaign to remove his alderman," Malone said. "He was so pleased with that effort that he decided to wage another campaign once the alderman was arrested."

Federal prosecutor Joseph Wall, however, said Adel came forward because he "was tired of paying money to the defendant" and providing him with free food for fundraisers and "hundreds of thousands" of free cell phone minutes in exchange for McGee's support.

Wall said that he would play recordings gathered through body wires and phone taps of McGee, in his own words, planning and carrying out bribery and extortion activities. Wall said McGee extorted and accepted bribes from "vulnerable people who needed his support," and detailed eight cases in which he said McGee did so for those needing support on licensing matters.

Wall also detailed McGee's offense of trying to evade reporting requirements when he sent $15,000 to a concert promoter in New York, saying the prosecution would show there are "reasons why he did not want his name attached to that money."

Among the witnesses Wall said the defense would call is Ald. James Bohl, who chairs the licensing committee. Wall said his testimony would in part be a discussion of the practice of "aldermanic privilege," an unwritten rule in which the Council defers to the wishes of aldermen regarding licenses and permits within the district.

-- By David Wise

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